Hey! Randy

Banal but Expensive

Posted by heyrandy on December 10, 2011

America Revised, Frances FitzGerald, 1979

Not much has changed in the thirty-two years since the author wrote this book. Public education is still a political mess. By reading this book you will know some of the history of the mess.

The author’s focus is on the school textbooks. Political pressures and educational fads have forced the textbook remake itself to satisfy them. Ethnic groups, reform groups, reactionary groups, and single issue groups have all had influence in textbook writing. Textbook publishers have not been able to keep up.

The losers in all this are the school children. Fitzgerald concentrates on the American history textbooks. Nothing is very good. The only constant is dull writing. When this prose combines with the gimmick-of-the-day the result is some mis-educated kids.

People are usually supportive of their local school. They think that the problems are somewhere else. What they do not think about is that all the schools use the same textbooks and all the teachers use the same teaching methods. The problem is universal. This is what makes the book more than a complaint about poor writing.

The author also points out that actually intellectual training is a minor part of schooling. The emphasis is now on character molding. All that has happened is that students are now illiterate and ill-behaved.

The author is optimistic, but really the book tells us that the future is more of the same, only more expensive.

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